Bears

Should the Bears be panicking on offense?

Should the Bears be panicking on offense?

Now that nearly one week has passed since the Chicago Bears' opening night loss to the Green Bay Packers, most fans have turned their attention to Week 2's matchup against the Denver Broncos. Sunday's game against Vic Fangio will offer the Bears' offense an opportunity to wash the stench of Week 1's miserable performance from Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy.

Yet, there's still an uncomfortable question bubbling under the surface: Is this offense any good?

According to The Ringer, the Bears are one of several offenses with a legitimate reason to panic:

Trubisky’s athleticism makes him dangerous as a runner, but for this offense to take the next step, Chicago needs its former second overall pick to speed up his processing and deliver passes with more accuracy and better timing. It’s a long season, but in Week 1, there was very little sign that’s close to happening. It could hamstring this group all year.

It doesn't take a deep dive into the analytics to know Trubisky didn't play his best game against Green Bay. In fact, it may have been one of his worst. He completed just 26-of-45 passes for 228 yards and 1 INT and looked overmatched by Mike Pettine and the Packers defense. Trubisky looked like a rookie making his first start of his career. It wasn't good.

But it wasn't all his fault, either. The offensive line was bullied for four quarters and there was little help from the running game, which can be blamed on Nagy's questionable playcalling.

Still, there's a growing concern that Trubisky may not be who the Bears thought he was when he was selected No. 2 overall in 2017:

The third-year quarterback was pressured on 21 of his 53 dropbacks, a 39.6 percent rate that ranked seventh worst on the week, per PFF. He struggled miserably in those situations, completing just six of 15 attempts, tossing an interception, and taking five sacks to notch a passer rating of 20.1 under pressure for third worst among qualifiers in the 16-game slate. He wasn’t much better from a clean pocket, either: He completed 20 of 30 passes for 185 yards on those dropbacks to register an 83.3 passer rating, good for 20th among 26 qualifying passers.

One bad week doesn't define a career. It certainly won't for Trubisky, who played at a very high level in 2018 as an athletic quarterback who led his team to a division title and playoff berth. But he can't afford another poor performance against the Broncos; otherwise, buckle up. It's going to be a bumpy ride under center in Chicago.

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Contract decisions coming for Bears defense as questions hang over LB Danny Trevathan

Contract decisions coming for Bears defense as questions hang over LB Danny Trevathan

As 2018 came to its bumpy playoff-loss ending, the Bears could look toward the coming offseason without major crisis decisions looming for what was then an elite defense. They’d prepared contingencies for possible departures of safety Adrian Amos and nickel back Bryce Callahan.

This offseason they will have further-reaching calls to make, beginning at inside linebacker where two of their top three players are coming out of a contract: Danny Trevathan, also off an elbow injury suffered against Detroit, and Nick Kwiatkoski, coming off a second defense-leading performance in a backup role.

The Bears made a decision earlier this year to keep Nick Kwiatkoski for the final year of his rookie contract. The former college teammate of wide receiver Kevin White had played his way under the NFL’s “Proven Performance Escalator” from $720,000 up to a fourth-year salary $2.025 million, a not-insignificant tab for a reserve linebacker on a defense fortified with major dollars invested on the line (Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks), at linebacker (Khalil Mack, Trevathan) and cornerback (Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller), with decisions pending at both safety spots.

Possibly before this season is done, the Bears could secure Kwiatkoski with another deal, particularly after Kwiatkoski has stepped in and keyed the defense in place of Roquan Smith (Minnesota) and on Sunday when Trevathan went down with a severe elbow injury.

“Right now honestly I’m not thinking about it because there’s a lot of football to play and it’ll take care of itself,” he told NBC Sports Chicago last week. “For me, I feel like whatever happens, happens.”

What has happened is that twice Kwiatkoski, until now a four-phase leader on special teams, has helped the Bears make their decision. Against the Lions, Kwiatkoski’s third-quarter interception, the first of his career, set up the Bears’ third, final and ultimately deciding touchdown.

“Ryan [Pace, GM] and his personnel guys, they created this depth chart throughout our team where when guys go down you're able to have guys step up,” said coach Matt Nagy. “Kwit has done that, and that's what it's all about.”

Kwiatkoski’s is not the only critical depth-chart decision the Bears have upcoming for their defense.

Besides calls like whether Amukamara is playing at a level commensurate with a $9 million base, or whether to go longer-term on a deal for safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris will be a restricted free agent. They picked up Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option but now need to assess whether he is worth either $13.2 million this year or a long-term deal.

And defensive lineman Nick Williams, leading the Bears with six sacks, is going to be worth more than the $895,000 they landed him for this year.

But the Trevathan injury, besides presenting player and team with a difficult decision on injured reserve, also adds a complicating factor in determining where the quarterback of the defense falls among their priorities. His four-year deal, with $15.5 million guaranteed, averaged $7 million per season, with base salaries of $5.8 million in the last two.

There is zero question where the former Denver Bronco wants to finish his career.

“This city’s been nothing but good to me,” Trevathan said. “It’s all I think about, all I want to be. Chicago is a linebacker’s dream. It’ll take care of itself, I’m sure.

“Everybody has a role. I just wanted to do my job and be the best ‘Danny Trevathan’ I can be, and the best Bear I can be. That’s all I can do. My Mom always told me that things would take care of themselves if you work your tail off.”

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Akiem Hicks talks patience and his friendship with Nick Williams

Akiem Hicks talks patience and his friendship with Nick Williams

The Bears have been playing without Akiem Hicks since Week 4 when Hicks was placed on injured reserve after dislocating his elbow during the Bears trip across the pond to the play the Oakland Raiders. If that Week 4 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings feels like a long time ago, it’s because it has been, and the Bears have been feeling Hicks’ absence.

Hicks spoke at an event at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago this week about his time on IR and when he thinks he’ll be back on the field.

“I try not to make too many projections,” Hicks said. “I have no projections, I just want to be healthy and contribute to this football team.”

When asked about what he missed most while being on IR, Hicks kept his answer simple.

“Just being with the boys,” he said. “It’s a different feeling Saturday night at the hotel when everybody is getting prepared and locking in for the game and you’re sitting there spectating. As much as you try to involve yourself, giving them advice and pushing them in the right direction, the true moment, the battle, the competition you’re going to miss. You just have to accept that.”

“One thing that has improved on my time away is patience, I understand that it was my moment and I have to be comfortable with this time away.”

Hicks was asked about Nick Williams, who has been filling in for him at defensive end, with Hicks having nothing but kind words to say.

“Just a stud,” Hicks said. “He’s shown that he can be a dominant defensive tackle.”

Hicks certainly isn’t wrong. Nick Williams is currently leading the Bears in sacks, with six sacks to his name this season. Hicks also touched on the long-standing friendship he and Williams have shared over their two years as Bears.

 “Myself and Nick Williams have a long relationship over these past two years,” Hicks said. “It feels like we’ve been friends forever. He was very supportive of me throughout his time here. It’s unfortunate that I’m on IR, but it’s a great opportunity to be supportive of him as well.”

“If there was anybody who was going to come up for me and play the time that I’ve missed, I’m glad it was Nick,” Hicks said. “I challenge you to pick somebody in the crowd more excited than me when he makes a play.” 

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